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Maintaining Professional Balance

As part of our ability as intermediary is to maintaining professional balance, we need to be seen by the client as a problem solver, partner and someone that understands the fine balance between personal and professional interaction.

To be seen as a problem-solver
The following problem-solving technique invites you to approach problems through a series of questions. If you are serious about solving your client’s problems then you will take the time to make a written response to these questions. Writing helps to clarify thoughts and it also gives you a permanent record of your ideas and solutions to which you can return from time to time for reassurance and clarification.


1. What is the real problem to be solved?
It is very important that the problem should be fully and adequately defined. The underlying hidden issues should also be explored so that they can be sensitively dealt with in the context of the more obvious problem features.  If the problem is not carefully identified then it is extremely difficult to find satisfactory solutions.  (Sometimes actually identifying the problem is the key to its solution.)  Therefore define the stressor or stress reactions within a full context.  Ask are there any underlying issues that also need to be addressed?

2. What is the ideal solution?
Try to define what you would consider to be the ideal solution. Many alternative solutions may emerge in the process. In fact it is helpful to have as many alternatives as possible. This process may be time consuming and sometime exhausting but it is absolutely necessary.
3. What options do I have?
Apply action possibilities to the goals set in Step 2. Some goals may have to be eliminated because they are unrealistic. Others may have to be modified. Some can be achieved.  Be specific in defining the possible solutions. Try to be creative when considering options.  Develop some really crazy ones just to get your mind stimulated.  Mix and match various ideas just to see where they lead. All the historic problem solvers from Archimedes to Einstein have been noted for their feats of bringing to bear, on difficult problems, concepts and principles from apparently disparate fields of knowledge.

4. What might happen if I put these options into practice?
Consider the consequences of taking certain steps. Imagine and consider how others might respond if they faced a similar situation. Make realistic assessments and do not avoid painful answers. Write down the consequences and face them no matter how difficult that might be in the first instance. It is possible to make considerable progress once reality is confronted. Strength can be drawn from reality. Evaluate the pros and cons. Rehearse strategies and behaviours by means of creative imagination.

5. What is my decision?
This is often the most difficult step of all. Consult with others; discuss the options facing you; draw on good advice. Having considered all the alternatives then make a decision. Do not waffle or procrastinate. This will only aggravate the problem rather than solving it.

6. Now Do It!
Apply action to the problem. Set up an action timetable and take the first steps. Keep things moving! Try out the most acceptable and feasible solution. Apply the necessary resources.

7. Did It Work?
Re-examine the original problem in light of the attempt at problem solving. You need to view any possible failures or disappointments as needed feedback to begin the problem-solving process once again.

On the next page you will find a handy tool, with which you can prepare yourself to deal with a specific problem.
Problem Solving Worksheet

Decide if a problem exist YES   NO  

What is the real problem to be solved? (Define the problem)

What caused the problem?

What supportive evidence do I have?

What is the ideal solution?

What options do I have?

What consequences will there be if I do nothing?

What might happen if I put these options into practice?

What is my decision?  Which option will I implement?

Now do it!

Did it work?


To be seen as a partner
From relationships flow the agreements that give definition and direction to Win/Win. They are sometimes called performance agreements, service level agreements or partnership agreements, shifting the paradigm of productive interaction from vertical to horizontal, from positioning to being partners in success.

Win/Win agreements cover a wide scope of interdependent interaction. In Win/Win agreements, the following five elements are made very explicit:

  1. Desired results (not methods) identify what is to be done and when.
  2. Guidelines specify the parameters (principles, rules, etc.) within which results are to be accomplished.
  3. Identify the human, financial or technical, or organisational resources and support available to help accomplish the results.
  4. Accountability sets up the standards of performance and the time of evaluation.
  5. Consequences specify – good or bad, natural and logical – what does and will happen as a result of the evaluation.

A clear mutual understanding and agreement upfront in these areas creates a standard against which people can measure their own success.

Win/Win puts the responsibility on the individual for accomplishing specified results within clear guidelines and available resources. It makes the person accountable to perform and evaluate the results and provides consequences as a natural result of performance. To establish Win/Win agreements and to be seen as a partner with your client can only be successful, if a high-trust relationship is already in place.

© Successful Salesmanship – Johann Cloete